SAT next to Chief Inspector Jason Tingley and faced by a phalanx of cameras and microphones at Sussex Police headquarters in Lewes, the relief on Martin Stammers face was palpable.
Just hours earlier, he and Megan’s mother Danielle Wilson had learned that daughter Megan was safe and well in the hands of French police after she and teacher Jeremy Forrest had been found in south-western French city of Bordeaux.
Megan’s step-father told reporters how the family could not wait to be reunited with the teenager. He said: “I would just like to say Danielle and I are so relieved Megan has been found safe and well. We can’t wait to be reunited with her. Our family is overjoyed at the outcome.
“As you can imagine this has been an absolute emotional roller-coaster. Now we have smiles back on our faces.”
After eight days of anguish and worry for the Eastbourne family, 30-year-old Jeremy Forrest was arrested in the historic French city’s main shopping area at 12.15pm UK time in the Rue Sainte-Catherine. Some reports have suggested that Forrest was on his way to a job interview at a bar in the city.
A European arrest warrant was issued earlier this week for the Bishop Bell School maths teacher, who was today arrested on suspicion of child abduction.
British and French police will now deal with the process of extraditing Forrest, a married man from Ringmer in East Sussex, back to the UK.
Megan, meanwhile, is in the care of child protection officers and her parents are expected to fly out this weekend for what should be an emotional reunion.
It is understood Megan and Forrest were strolling hand-in-hand when they were stopped by police after a tip-off.
At the press conference, Mr Stammers, a teacher at the Causeway School in Eastbourne, asked for the family to be given privacy so that they could get their lives together.
And in a separate statement read at the press conference on behalf of Julie and Jim Forrest, the parents of Jeremy Forrest, the couple said: ‘We are pleased that Megan and Jeremy have been found safe and well,
‘This has been an ordeal for all the families concerned, we would like to thank Sussex police and the media for their assistance.’
It was last Thursday when Megan and Forrest fled in the teacher’s Ford Fiesta, catching a ferry from Dover to Calais. The last pictures of the couple were CCTV images of them walking hand-in-hand aboard the ferry.
At the press conference, Chief Inspector Tingley confirmed police had received reports of four sightings of Megan in France following intense media coverage, and two of these were in the south-west region of France.
He added: “Yesterday there was a third sighting in Bordeaux after a member of the public recognised Jeremy from the TV coverage that afternoon. That afternoon we were able to confirm the sighting.
“A joint operation between French police, the serious crime unit and Sussex Police was commenced and as a result both Megan and Jeremy were safely located in the city of Bordeaux at 12.15 UK time.”
News that Megan had been found was greeted with joy by Terry Boatwright, headteacher at Bishop Bell School. He said:
“Throughout the last week, finding Megan has been everyone’s priority and a major focus of our thoughts and prayers in school.
“Clearly, much needs to be done now to support Megan, and her family, as they seek to return to some sort of normality and we will do all we can to play our part in that.”